Utu worshipped by East Semitic peoples as Shamash, is the ancient Mesopotamian god of the sun, justice and truth, the twin brother of the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven. His main temples were in the cities of Larsa, he was believed to ride through the heavens in his sun chariot and see all things that happened in the day. He was thought to aid those in distress. According to Sumerian mythology, he helped protect Dumuzid when the galla demons tried to drag him to the Underworld and he appeared to the hero Ziusudra after the Great Flood. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, he helps Gilgamesh defeat the ogre Humbaba. Utu was the twin brother of Inanna, the Queen of Heaven, whose domain encompassed a broad variety of different powers. In Sumerian texts and Utu are shown as close. Utu is the son of Nanna, the god of the moon, his wife, but is sometimes described as the son of An or Enlil, his wife was the goddess Sherida known in Akkadian as Aya. Sherida was a goddess of beauty and sexual love because light was seen as inherently beautiful, or because of the sun's role in promoting agricultural fertility.
They were believed to have two offspring: the goddess Kittu, whose name means "Truth", the god Misharu, whose name means "Justice". By the time of the Old Babylonian Period and Utu, was associated with nadītu, an order of cloistered women who devoted their lives to the gods. Utu's charioteer Bunene is sometimes described as his son. Bunene was worshipped independently from Utu as a god of justice in Sippar and Uruk during the Old Babylonian Period and, in times, he was worshipped at Assur. Utu was worshipped in Sumer from the earliest times; the oldest documents mentioning him date to around 3500 BC, during the first stages of Sumerian writing. His main temples, which were both known as E-babbar, were located in Larsa. Utu continued to be venerated until the end of Mesopotamian culture and was worshipped for well over 3,000 years. Utu's main personality characteristics are his kindness and generosity, like all other Mesopotamian deities, he was not above refusing a request which inconvenienced him.
In the Hurro-Akkadian bilingual Weidner god list, Utu is equated with the Hurrian sun-god Šimigi. In the Ugaritic trilingual version of the Weidner god list, Šimigi and Utu are both equated with Lugalbanda. In Sumerian texts, Utu is described as "bearded" and "long-armed". In art, he is shown as an old man with a long beard, he was believed to emerge from the doors of Heaven every day at dawn and ride across the sky in his chariot before returning to the "interior of heaven" through a set of doors in the far west every evening. Utu's charioteer was named Bunene. Cylinder seals show two gods holding the doors open for him as he wields his weapon, the pruning-saw, a double-edged arch-shaped saw with large, jagged teeth, representing his role as the god of justice. Utu's main symbol was the solar disc, a circle with four points in each of the cardinal directions and four wavy, diagonal lines emanating from the circle between each point; this symbol represented the light and power of the sun. The Sumerians believed that, as he rode through heaven, Utu saw everything that happened in the world.
Alongside his sister Inanna, Utu was the enforcer of divine justice. At night, Utu was believed to travel through the Underworld as he journeyed to the east in preparation for the sunrise. One Sumerian literary work refers to Utu illuminating the Underworld and dispensing judgement there and Shamash Hymn 31 states that Utu serves as a judge of the dead in the Underworld alongside the malku and the Anunnaki. On his way through the Underworld, Utu was believed to pass through the garden of the sun-god, which contained trees that bore precious gems as fruit. Utu was believed to take an active role in human affairs, was thought to aid those in distress. In one of his earliest appearances in literature, in the Myth of Etana, written before the conquest of Sargon of Akkad, the hero Etana invokes Utu to help his wife conceive a child. In the Sumerian poem The Dream of Dumuzid, Utu intervenes to rescue Inanna's husband Dumuzid from the galla demons who are hunting him. In the Sumerian flood myth, Utu emerges after the flood waters begin to subside, causing Ziusudra, the hero of the story, to throw open a window on his boat and fall down prostrate before him.
Ziusudra sacrifices an ox to Utu for delivering him to salvation. In the Sumerian King List, one of the early kings of Uruk is described as "the son of Utu" and Utu seems to have served as a special protector to several of that city's kings. In the Sumerian poem of Gilgamesh and Huwawa, the hero Gilgamesh asks Utu to assist him in his journey to the Cedar Mountain. In this version, Gilgamesh asks Utu's help because Utu is associated with the Cedar Mountain, implied to be located in the far east, the land where the sun rises. Utu is reluctant to help, after Gilgamesh explains that he is doing this because he intends to establish his name, because he knows he will die, Utu agrees. Once Gilgamesh reaches the Cedar Mountain, Utu helps him defeat the ogre Huwawa. In the standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh's plan to visit the Cedar Mountain is still his own idea and he goes to Shamash for aid. In this version, the Cedar Mountain is explicitly stated to be located in the northwest, in Lebanon.
Shamash helps Gilgamesh defeat Humbaba. Jeffrey H. Tigay suggests that Lugalbanda's association with the sun-g
Enkidu misread as Eabani, is a central figure in the Ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. Enkidu was formed from clay and water by Aruru, the goddess of creation, to rid Gilgamesh of his arrogance. In the story he is a wild man, raised by animals and ignorant of human society until he is bedded by Shamhat. Thereafter a series of interactions with humans and human ways bring him closer to civilization, culminating in a wrestling match with Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Enkidu embodies the natural world. Though equal to Gilgamesh in strength and bearing, he acts in some ways as an antithesis to the cultured, urban-bred warrior-king. Enkidu becomes the king's constant companion and beloved friend, accompanying him on adventures until he is stricken with illness and dies; the deep, tragic loss of Enkidu profoundly inspires in Gilgamesh a quest to escape death by obtaining godly immortality. The people of Uruk complain to the gods; the goddess Aruru forms Enkidu from water and clay as rival as a countervailing force.
Enkidu lived in the wild, roaming with the herds, joining the game at the watering-hole. M. H. Henze notes in this an early Mesopotamian tradition of the wild man living apart and roaming the hinterland, who eats grass like the animals and like them, drinks from the watering places. A hunter sees him and realizes that it is Enkidu, freeing the animals from his traps, he reports this to Gilgamesh, who sends Shamhat, to deal with him. Enkidu spends six days and seven nights copulating with Shamhat, after which, sensing her scent upon him, the animals flee from him, he finds he cannot return to his old ways, he returns to Shamhat. He now protects the shepherd's flock against predators. Jastrow and Clay are of the opinion that the story of Enkidu was a separate tale to illustrate "man's career and destiny, how through intercourse with a woman he awakens to the sense of human dignity..."Shamhat tells him of the city of Uruk and of its king Gilgamesh. He engages Gilgamesh in a wrestling match as a test of strength.
Gilgamesh wins and the two become fast friends. Enkidu assists Gilgamesh in killing Humbaba, the guardian monster of the Cedar Forest. Enkidu selects a tall tree to provide lumber for a new door for Enlil's temple in Uruk, he assists Gilgamesh in slaying Gugalanna the Bull of Heaven, which the gods have sent to kill Gilgamesh as a reprisal for rejecting Ishtar's affections while enumerating the misfortunes that befell her former lovers. Ishtar demands. Shamash appeals to the other gods to let both of them live. Enkidu succumbs to a wasting illness, he represents the hero who dies early. Gilgamesh responds to the loss of Enkidu by seeking out Utnapishtim in a quest for eternal life. There is another non-canonical tablet in which Enkidu journeys into the underworld, but many scholars consider the tablet to be a sequel or add-on to the original epic as the work was revised several times; the section about the Flood is considered to be addition. Some modern individuals interpret Enkidu's relationship as erotic.
Gilgamesh in popular culture Master of Animals "Enkidu sitting astride Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven". Bertman, Stephen. Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press
In Sumerian mythology, Ninsun is a goddess, best known as the mother of the legendary hero Gilgamesh, as the tutelary goddess of Gudea of Lagash. Her parents are Uras. Ninsun has been linked to older deities. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Ninsun is depicted as a human queen who lives in Uruk with her son as king. Since the father of Gilgamesh was former king Lugalbanda, it stands to reason that Ninsun procreated with Lugalbanda to give birth, she assists her son in his adventure by providing him with the meanings of his dream in the beginning. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Ninsun is summoned by Gilgamesh and Enkidu to help pray to the god Utu to help the two on their journey to the Country of the Living to battle Humbaba. In the Tello relief at ancient Lagaš, dating to ca. 2150 BC, her name is written in cuneiform dNIN. SUMUN2; the meaning of sumun in Sumerian is "wild cow" and her name is attested as dNIN. SUMUN2. NA Nin-sumunak, revealing its origin as a genitive phrase meaning "lady of the wild cows".
The sign SUMUN2 was read SUN2, leading to the widespread usage of the name Ninsun. Other names include Rimat-Ninsun, the "August Cow", the "Wild Cow of the Enclosure", "The Great Queen". In Sumerian mythology, Ninsun was called Gula until her name was changed to Ninisina. Gula became a Babylonian goddess. According to "Pabilsag's Journey to Nibru," Ninsun was named Nininsina. According to the ancient Babylonian text, Nininsina wedded Pabilsag near a riverbank and gave birth to Damu as a result of the union. Other sources give Gunura as Damu's father. Auðumbla Kamadhenu, cow from Hindu mythology Amalthea, goat who raised Zeus, who suckled on her breast milk Hathor, Egyptian cow goddess Encyclopedia of Gods, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2002 John A. Halloran, Sumerian Lexicon, 2003 Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses: Ninsumun
Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, sex, fertility, war and political power. She was worshipped in Sumer and was worshipped by the Akkadians and Assyrians under the name Ishtar, she was known as the "Queen of Heaven" and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star, her husband was the god her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur. Inanna was worshipped in Sumer at least as early as the Uruk period, but she had little cult prior to the conquest of Sargon of Akkad. During the post-Sargonic era, she became one of the most venerated deities in the Sumerian pantheon, with temples across Mesopotamia; the cult of Inanna-Ishtar, which may have been associated with a variety of sexual rites, including homosexual transvestite priests, sacred prostitution and hierogamy between Sumerian kings and her priestesses, was continued by the East Semitic-speaking people who succeeded the Sumerians in the region.
She was beloved by the Assyrians, who elevated her to become the highest deity in their pantheon, ranking above their own national god Ashur. Inanna-Ishtar is alluded to in the Hebrew Bible and she influenced the Phoenician goddess Astarte, who influenced the development of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, her cult continued to flourish until its gradual decline between the first and sixth centuries AD in the wake of Christianity, though it survived in parts of Upper Mesopotamia as late as the eighteenth century. Inanna appears in more myths than any other Sumerian deity. Many of her myths involve her taking over the domains of other deities, she was believed to have stolen the mes, which represented all positive and negative aspects of civilization, from Enki, the god of wisdom. She was believed to have taken over the Eanna temple from An, the god of the sky. Alongside her twin brother Utu, Inanna was the enforcer of divine justice. In the standard Akkadian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar asks Gilgamesh to become her consort.
When he refuses, she unleashes the Bull of Heaven, resulting in the death of Enkidu and Gilgamesh's subsequent grapple with his mortality. Inanna-Ishtar's most famous myth is the story of her descent into and return from Kur, the ancient Sumerian Underworld, a myth in which she attempts to conquer the domain of her older sister Ereshkigal, the queen of the Underworld, but is instead deemed guilty of hubris by the seven judges of the Underworld and struck dead. Three days Ninshubur pleads with all the gods to bring Inanna back, but all of them refuse her except Enki, who sends two sexless beings to rescue Inanna, they escort Inanna out of the Underworld, but the galla, the guardians of the Underworld, drag her husband Dumuzid down to the Underworld as her replacement. Dumuzid is permitted to return to heaven for half the year while his sister Geshtinanna remains in the Underworld for the other half, resulting in the cycle of the seasons. Inanna and Ishtar were separate, unrelated deities, but they were equated with each other during the reign of Sargon of Akkad and came to be regarded as the same goddess under two different names.
Inanna's name may derive from the Sumerian phrase nin-an-ak, meaning "Lady of Heaven", but the cuneiform sign for Inanna is not a ligature of the signs lady and sky. These difficulties led some early Assyriologists to suggest that Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, only accepted into the Sumerian pantheon; this idea was supported by Inanna's youthfulness, as well as the fact that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, she seems to have lacked a distinct sphere of responsibilities. The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not accepted by modern Assyriologists; the name Ishtar occurs as an element in personal names from both the pre-Sargonic and post-Sargonic eras in Akkad and Babylonia. It is of Semitic derivation and is etymologically related to the name of the West Semitic god Attar, mentioned in inscriptions from Ugarit and southern Arabia; the morning star may have been conceived as a male deity who presided over the arts of war and the evening star may have been conceived as a female deity who presided over the arts of love.
Among the Akkadians and Babylonians, the name of the male god supplanted the name of his female counterpart, due to extensive syncretism with Inanna, the deity remained as female, despite the fact that her name was in the masculine form. Inanna has posed a problem for many scholars of ancient Sumer due to the fact that her sphere of power contained more distinct and contradictory aspects than that of any other deity. Two major theories regarding her origins have been proposed; the first explanation holds that Inanna is the result of a syncretism between several unrelated Sumerian deities with different domains. The second explanation holds that Inanna was a Semitic deity who entered the Sumerian pantheon after it was fully structured, who took on all the r
Hadad, Haddad or Iškur was the storm and rain god in the Northwest Semitic and ancient Mesopotamian religions. He was attested in Ebla as "Hadda" in c. 2500 BCE. From the Levant, Hadad was introduced to Mesopotamia by the Amorites, where he became known as the Akkadian god Adad. Adad and Iškur are written with the logogram dIM—the same symbol used for the Hurrian god Teshub. Hadad was called "Pidar", "Rapiu", "Baal-Zephon", or simply Baʿal, but this title was used for other gods; the bull was the symbolic animal of Hadad. He appeared bearded holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. Hadad was equated with the Greek god Zeus. In Akkadian, Adad is known as Rammanu cognate with Aramaic: רעמא Raˁmā and Hebrew: רַעַם Raˁam, a byname of Hadad. Rammanu was incorrectly taken by many scholars to be an independent Akkadian god identified with Hadad. Though originating in northern Mesopotamia, Adad was identified by the same Sumerogram dIM that designated Iškur in the south, his worship became widespread in Mesopotamia after the First Babylonian dynasty.
A text dating from the reign of Ur-Ninurta characterizes Adad/Iškur as both threatening in his stormy rage and life-giving and benevolent. The form Iškur appears in the list of gods found at Shuruppak but was of far less importance partly because storms and rain were scarce in Sumer and agriculture there depended on irrigation instead; the gods Enlil and Ninurta had storm god features that decreased Iškur's distinctiveness. He sometimes appears as the other of the two; when Enki distributed the destinies, he made Iškur inspector of the cosmos. In one litany, Iškur is proclaimed again and again as "great radiant bull, your name is heaven" and called son of Anu, lord of Karkara. In other texts Adad/Iškur is sometimes son of the moon god Nanna/Sin by Ningal and brother of Utu/Shamash and Inanna/Ishtar. Iškur is sometimes described as the son of Enlil; the bull was portrayed as Adad/Iškur's sacred animal starting in the Old Babylonian period. Adad/Iškur's consort was Shala, a goddess of grain, sometimes associated with the god Dagānu.
She was called Gubarra in the earliest texts. The fire god Gibil is sometimes the son of Shala, he is identified with the Anatolian storm-god Teshub, whom the Mitannians designated with the same Sumerogram dIM. Adad/Iškur is identified with the god Amurru, the god of the Amorites; the Babylonian center of Adad/Iškur's cult was Karkara in the south, his chief temple being É. Kar.kar.a. Dur.ku. In Assyria, Adad was developed along with his warrior aspect. During the Middle Assyrian Empire, from the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I, Adad had a double sanctuary in Assur which he shared with Anu. Anu is associated with Adad in invocations; the name Adad and various alternate forms and bynames are found in the names of the Assyrian kings. Adad/Iškur presents two aspects in the hymns and votive inscriptions. On the one hand he is the god who, through bringing on the rain in due season, causes the land to become fertile, and, on the other hand, the storms that he sends out bring havoc and destruction, he is pictured on monuments and cylinder seals with the lightning and the thunderbolt, in the hymns the sombre aspects of the god on the whole predominate.
His association with the sun-god, due to the natural combination of the two deities who alternate in the control of nature, leads to imbuing him with some of the traits belonging to a solar deity. According to Alberto Green, descriptions of Adad starting in the Kassite period and in the region of Mari emphasize his destructive, stormy character and his role as a fearsome warrior deity, in contrast to Iškur's more peaceful and pastoral character. Shamash and Adad became in combination the gods of oracles and of divination in general. Whether the will of the gods is determined through the inspection of the liver of the sacrificial animal, through observing the action of oil bubbles in a basin of water or through the observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies, it is Shamash and Adad who, in the ritual connected with divination, are invariably invoked. In the annals and votive inscriptions of the kings, when oracles are referred to, Shamash and Adad are always named as the gods addressed, their ordinary designation in such instances is bele biri.
In religious texts, Ba‘al/Hadad is the lord of the sky who governs the rain and thus the germination of plants with the power to determine fertility. He is the protector of growth to the agricultural people of the region; the absence of Ba‘al causes dry spells, starvation and chaos. Refers to the mountain of the west wind; the Biblical reference occurs at a time when Yahweh has provided a strong east wind to push back the waters of the Red or Erythrian Sea, so that the children of Israel might cross over. In the Ugaritic texts El, the supreme god of the pantheon, resides on Mount Lel and it is there that the assembly of the gods meet; that is the mythical cosmic mountain. The Ba‘al cycle is fragmentary and leaves much u
Ninurta known as Ninĝirsu, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with farming, hunting, law and war, first worshipped in early Sumer. In the earliest records, he is a god of agriculture and healing, who releases humans from sickness and the power of demons. In times, as Mesopotamia grew more militarized, he became a warrior deity, though he retained many of his earlier agricultural attributes, he was regarded as the son of the chief god Enlil and his main cult center in Sumer was the Eshumesha temple in Nippur. Ninĝirsu was honored by King Gudea of Lagash. Ninurta became beloved by the Assyrians as a formidable warrior; the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II built a massive temple for him at Kalhu, which became his most important cult center from on. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, Ninurta's statues were torn down and his temples abandoned because he had become too associated with the Assyrian regime, which many conquered peoples saw as tyrannical and oppressive. In the epic poem Lugal-e, Ninurta slays the demon Asag using his talking mace Sharur and uses stones to build the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to make them useful for irrigation.
In a poem sometimes referred to as the "Sumerian Georgica", Ninurta provides agricultural advice to farmers. In an Akkadian myth, he was the champion of the gods against the Anzû bird after it stole the Tablet of Destinies from his father Enlil and, in a myth, alluded to in many works but never preserved, he killed a group of warriors known as the "Slain Heroes", his major symbols were a plow. Ninurta may have been the inspiration for the figure of Nimrod, a "mighty hunter", mentioned in association with Kalhu in the Book of Genesis, he may be mentioned in the Second Book of Kings under the name Nisroch. In the nineteenth century, Assyrian stone reliefs of winged, eagle-headed figures from the temple of Ninurta at Kalhu were but erroneously, identified as "Nisrochs" and they appear in works of fantasy literature from the time period. Ninurta was worshipped in Mesopotamia as early as the middle of the third millennium BC by the ancient Sumerians, is one of the earliest attested deities in the region.
His main cult center was the Eshumesha temple in the Sumerian city-state of Nippur, where he was worshipped as the god of agriculture and the son of the chief-god Enlil. Though they may have been separate deities, in historical times, the god Ninĝirsu, worshipped in the Sumerian city-state of Girsu, was always identified as a local form of Ninurta. According to the Assyriologists Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, the two gods' personalities are "closely intertwined". King Gudea of Lagash dedicated himself to Ninĝirsu and the Gudea cylinders, dating to c. 2125 BC, record how he rebuilt the temple of Ninĝirsu in Lagash as the result of a dream in which he was instructed to do so. The Gudea cylinders record the longest surviving account written in the Sumerian language known to date. Gudea's son Ur-Ninĝirsu incorporated Ninĝirsu's name as part of his own; as the city-state of Girsu declined in importance, Ninĝirsu became known as "Ninurta". Though Ninurta was worshipped as a god of agriculture, in times, as Mesopotamia became more urban and militarized, he began to be seen as a warrior deity instead.
He became characterized by the aggressive, warlike aspect of his nature. In spite of this, however, he continued to be seen as a healer and protector, he was invoked in spells to protect against demons and other dangers. In times, Ninurta's reputation as a fierce warrior made him immensely popular among the Assyrians. In the late second millennium BC, Assyrian kings held names which included the name of Ninurta, such as Tukulti-Ninurta, Ninurta-apal-Ekur, Ninurta-tukulti-Ashur. Tukulti-Ninurta I declares in one inscription that he hunts "at the command of the god Ninurta, who loves me." Adad-nirari II claimed Ninurta and Aššur as supporters of his reign, declaring his destruction of their enemies as moral justification for his right to rule. In the ninth century BC, when Ashurnasirpal II moved the capital of the Assyrian Empire to Kalhu, the first temple he built there was one dedicated to Ninurta; the walls of the temple were decorated with stone relief carvings, including one of Ninurta slaying the Anzû bird.
Ashurnasirpal II's son Shalmaneser III completed Ninurta's ziggurat at Kalhu and dedicated a stone relief of himself to the god. On the carving, Shalmaneser III's boasts of his military exploits and credits all his victories to Ninurta, declaring that, without Ninurta's aid, none of them would have been possible; when Adad-nirari III dedicated a new endowment to the temple of Aššur in Assur, they were sealed with both the seal of Aššur and the seal of Ninurta. Assyrian stone reliefs from the Kalhu period show Aššur as a winged disc, with Ninurta's name written beneath it, indicating the two were seen as near-equals. After the capital of Assyria was moved away from Kalhu, Ninurta's importance in the pantheon began to decline. Sargon II favored the god of scribes, over Ninurta. Nonetheless, Ninurta still remained an important deity. After the kings of Assyria left Kalhu, the inhabitants of the former capital continued to venerate Ninurta, who they called "Ninurta residing in Kalhu". Legal documents from the city record that those who violated their oaths were requi
Gilgamesh was a historical king of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, a major hero in ancient Mesopotamian mythology, the protagonist of the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem written in Akkadian during the late second millennium BC. He ruled sometime between 2800 and 2500 BC and was posthumously deified, he became a major figure in Sumerian legends during the Third Dynasty of Ur. Tales of Gilgamesh's legendary exploits are narrated in five surviving Sumerian poems; the earliest of these is Gilgamesh and the Netherworld, in which Gilgamesh comes to the aid of the goddess Inanna and drives away the creatures infesting her huluppu tree. She gives him two unknown objects called a pikku, which he loses. After Enkidu's death, his shade tells Gilgamesh about the bleak conditions in the Underworld; the poem Gilgamesh and Agga describes Gilgamesh's revolt against his overlord King Agga. Other Sumerian poems relate Gilgamesh's defeat of the ogre Huwawa and the Bull of Heaven and a fifth, poorly preserved one describes his death and funeral.
In Babylonian times, these stories began to be woven into a connected narrative. The standard Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh was composed by a scribe named Sîn-lēqi-unninni during the Middle Babylonian Period, based on much older source material. In the epic, Gilgamesh is a demigod of superhuman strength. Together, they go on adventures, defeating Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven, who, in the epic, is sent to attack them by Ishtar after Gilgamesh rejects her offer for him to become her consort. After Enkidu dies of a disease sent as punishment from the gods, Gilgamesh becomes afraid of his own death, visits the sage Utnapishtim, the survivor of the Great Flood, hoping to find immortality. Gilgamesh fails the trials set before him and returns home to Uruk, realizing that immortality is beyond his reach. Most classical historians agree that the Epic of Gilgamesh exerted substantial influence on both the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems written in ancient Greek during the eighth century BC; the story of Gilgamesh's birth is described in a second-century AD anecdote from On the Nature of Animals by the Greek writer Aelian.
Aelian relates that Gilgamesh's grandfather kept his mother under guard to prevent her from becoming pregnant, because he had been told by an oracle that his grandson would overthrow him. She became pregnant and the guards threw the child off a tower, but an eagle rescued him mid-fall and delivered him safely to an orchard, where he was raised by the gardener; the Epic of Gilgamesh was rediscovered in the Library of Ashurbanipal in 1849. After being translated in the early 1870s, it caused widespread controversy due to similarities between portions of it and the Hebrew Bible. Gilgamesh remained obscure until the mid-twentieth century, since the late twentieth-century, he has become an prominent figure in modern culture. Most historians agree that Gilgamesh was a historical king of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk, who ruled sometime during the early part of the Early Dynastic Period. Stephanie Dalley, a scholar of the ancient Near East, states that "precise dates cannot be given for the lifetime of Gilgamesh, but they are agreed to lie between 2800 and 2500 BC."
No contemporary mention of Gilgamesh has yet been discovered, but the 1955 discovery of the Tummal Inscription, a thirty-four-line historiographic text written during the reign of Ishbi-Erra, has cast considerable light on his reign. The inscription credits Gilgamesh with building the walls of Uruk. Lines eleven through fifteen of the inscription read: Gilgamesh is referred to as a king by King Enmebaragesi of Kish, a known historical figure who may have lived near Gilgamesh's lifetime. Furthermore, Gilgamesh is listed as one of the kings of Uruk by the Sumerian King List. Fragments of an epic text found in Me-Turan relate that at the end of his life Gilgamesh was buried under the river bed; the people of Uruk diverted the flow of the Euphrates passing Uruk for the purpose of burying the dead king within the river bed. It is certain that, during the Early Dynastic Period, Gilgamesh was worshipped as a god at various locations across Sumer. In the twenty-first century BC, Utu-hengal, the king of Uruk, adopted Gilgamesh as his patron deity.
The kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur were fond of Gilgamesh, calling him their "divine brother" and "friend". King Shulgi of Ur declared himself the brother of Gilgamesh. Over the centuries, there may have been a gradual accretion of stories about Gilgamesh, some derived from the real lives of other historical figures, such as Gudea, the Second Dynasty ruler of Lagash. Prayers inscribed in clay tablets address Gilgamesh as a judge of the dead in the Underworld. During this period, a large number of myths and legends developed surrounding Gilgamesh. Five independent Sumerian poems narrating various exploits of Gilgamesh have survived to the present. Gilgamesh's first appearance in literature is in the Sumerian poem Gilgamesh and the Netherworld; the narrative begins with a huluppu tree—perhaps, according to the Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer, a willow, growing on the banks of the river Euphrates. The goddess Inanna moves the tree to her garden in Uruk with the intention to carve it into a throne once it is grown.
The tree grows and matures, but the serpent "who knows no charm," the Anzû-bird, Lilitu, the Sumerian forerunner to the Lilith of Jewish folklore, all t